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Oil painting - Flowers: Tulips, Camellias, Hyacinths
  • Flowers: Tulips, Camellias, Hyacinths
    Fantin-Latour, Henri, born 1836 - died 1904
  • Enlarge image

Flowers: Tulips, Camellias, Hyacinths

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (possibly, painted)

  • Date:

    1864 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Fantin-Latour, Henri, born 1836 - died 1904 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Paintings, Room 81, The Edwin and Susan Davies Galleries, case EAST WALL

Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) was born in Grenoble and first trained with his father, Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1805-75), and then with Horace Lecocq de Boisbaudran at the Petite Ecole de Dessin in Paris from 1850 to 1856. In 1861 he worked in Gustave Courbet's studio for several months as a pupil. After a period of portraiture, Fantin-Latour concentrated on flowers paintings and still-lifes for which he is now best known. His flower pieces were especially popular with British collectors, and he exhibited at the Royal Academy in London from 1862 onwards, especially thanks to the patronage of James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), whom he met in 1858.

This painting is a fine example of Fantin-Latour's early flower piece, a category in which he progressively specialised executing up to 500 floral compositions. This painting shows a bouquet of tulips, camellias, hyacinths, holly hocks and several rustic flowers in a vase on a table. The attention here is drawn on the rich combination of textures and tones, which contrast with the plain dark background. These effects of light and colour are characteristic of the new naturalism developed in French art in the second half of the 19th century, which anticipate the Impressionists' new experimentations.

Physical description

Tulips, camellias, hyacinths, holly hocks and wild flowers arranged in a transparent vase on a table, against a dark neutral background.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (possibly, painted)


1864 (painted)


Fantin-Latour, Henri, born 1836 - died 1904 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

'Fantin 1864'
Signed and dated by the artist, lower right


Height: 49 cm estimate, Width: 43.8 cm estimate

Object history note

Bought from the artist in July 1864 (with CAI. 128) for 500 francs (ca.£20) by Constantine Alexander Ionides; November 1881 listed in his inventory (private collection), as one of three paintings of 'Flowers' by Fantin Latour (the others being CAI.128 and CAI.130), each valued at £40; Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides, 1900.

Historical significance: This painting is a characteristic example of Fantin-Latour's early flower paintings. It shows a composition of different flowers harmoniously arranged in a simple vase on a table, probably set in a domestic interior.
This picture draws the attention onto the contrast between light and shade, the brilliant colours of the flowers against the formless plain background. The artist shows here sensitivity for the rendering of different textures: tulips, camellias, hyacinths, holly hocks and more rustic flowers alternate in an explosion of tones and colours. It is very close in composition to another painting of the same date also in the museum's collection (CAI.128). The artist never thought of his flower paintings as pairs, but they were usually purchased as such by his British patrons.

This is one of 8 paintings brought to London by Fantin on his third visit in July 1864.

Thanks to his friendship with James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), whom he met in 1858, Fantin-Latour was introduced to British collectors such as Alexander Ionides and his son Constantine, who bought two other still life paintings by the artist (CAI.129 and CAI.130).

Although this painting was painted in France, London was the principal market for Fantin-Latour's flower pieces, and in 1871 the amateur etcher and dealer Edwin Edwards purchased all of the painter's stock for sale in England.

The Ionides bequest of 1901 doubled the size of the museum's collection of flower pieces by Fantin-Latour, which already included three painting acquired in 1882, 1884 and 1889 from Mrs Ruth Edwards, the widow of Edwin Edwards (see S.Ex.61-1882, S.Ex.24-1884 and S.Ex.4-1889).

The Barbizon school encouraged a new interest in naturalism and the objective rendering of light and colours, which was continued by the Impressionists. However, Fantin-Latour did not share their enthusiasm for open air painting and most of his compositions were executed in his studio.

Historical context note

19th-century French art is marked by a succession of movements based on a more or less close relationship with nature. At the beginning of the century, Romantic artists were fascinated by nature they interpreted as a mirror of the mind. They investigated human nature and personality, the folk culture, the national and ethnic origins, the medieval era, the exotic, the remote, the mysterious and the occult. This movement was heralded in France by such painter as Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863). In its opposition to academic art and its demand for a modern style Realism continued the aims of the Romantics. They assumed that reality could be perceived without distortion or idealization, and sought after a mean to combine the perception of the individual with objectivity. This reaction in French painting against the Grand Manner is well represented by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) who wrote a 'Manifesto of Realism', entitled Le Réalisme published in Paris in 1855. These ideas were challenged by the group of the Barbizon painters, who formed a recognizable school from the early 1830s to the 1870s and developed a free, broad and rough technique. They were mainly concerned by landscape painting and the rendering of light. The works of Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña (1807-1876), Jules Dupré (1811-1889), Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867), Constant Troyon (1810-1865) and Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) anticipate somehow the plein-air landscapes of the Impressionists.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Flowers: Tulips, Camellias, Hyacinths', Henri Fantin-Latour, 1864

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 36, cat. no. 79.
V. Dubourg Fantin-Latour, Catalogue de l'oeuvre complet (1849-1904) de Fantin-Latour, Paris, 1911, p. 34, no. 245.
F. Gibson, The Art of Henri Fantin-Latour: his life and work, London, 1924, pp. 112, 226.
B.S. Long, Catalogue of the Constantine Alexander Ionides collection. Vol. 1, Paintings in oil, tempera and water-colour, together with certain of the drawings, London, 1925, p. 24.
D. Druick & M. Hoog, Fantin-Latour, exhibition catalogue, Ottawa 1983, pp. 116 &124
Andrew Watson, 'Constantine Ionides and his Collection of 19th-Century French Art', Journal of the Scottish Society for Art History , vol. 3, 1998, pp.25-31 -cf. p.68, nn.5,6.


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Still-life; Flowers




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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